Hurricanes end the regular season on top

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That was due to the Blues conceding a last-minute try and a bonus point that would have given them first place in their 31-17 win over the Chiefs in Auckland.

There was no fairy tale finish for the defending champions, the Crusaders, who kept their hopes alive with a win over Moana Pasifika but relied on the Rebels beating the Drua. The Drua were too strong.

The playoffs will be: 

Chiefs v Reds: Friday June 7, 7.05pm NZT, FMG Stadium Waikato

Hurricanes v Rebels: Saturday June 8, 4.35pm NZT, Sky Stadium, Wellington

Blues v Drua: Saturday June 8, 7.05pm NZT, Eden Park, Auckland

Brumbies v Highlanders: Saturday June 8, 9.35pm NZT, GIO Stadium Canberra

Statistics watch:

Most tries: Sevu Reece (Crusaders) 12, Hoskins Sotutu (Blues 11), Tom Wright (Brumbies) 10.

Most carries: Mark Tele'a (Blues) 146, Rob Valetini (Brumbies) 140, Harry Wilson (Reds) 139.

Most clean breaks: Joshua Moorby (Hurricanes) 18, Caleb Clarke (Blues), Etene Nanai-Seturo (Chiefs) 16.

Most defenders beaten: Iosefo Masi (Drua), Selestino Ravutaumada (Drua) 65, Tele'a (Blues) 56.

Most lineouts won: Liam Wright (Reds) 64, Nick Frost (Brumbies) 57, Josh Canham (Rebels) 53.

Most metres gained: Tom Wright 1073, Caleb Clarke (Blues) 1028, Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens (Highlanders) 946.

Most offloads: Reece 22, Mark Nawaqanitawase (Waratahs) 19, Sotutu 17.

Most points: Damian McKenzie (Chiefs) 144, Noah Lolesio (Brumbies) 128, Isaiah Armstrong-Ravula (Drua) 106.

Crusaders 43 Moana Pasifika 10

Taking 17 minutes and without sin-binned prop Joe Moody, the Crusaders finally scored a trademark lineout maul try from seasons gone by to flanker Ethan Blackadder. And, for good measure, they repeated the dose nine minutes later for hooker Codie Taylor to score. Wing Fine Inisi got one back in the 28th minute from a bullocking entry to the backline. But the lineout maul was the Crusaders' go-to for Taylor to score his second in the 32nd minute. Blindside play produced a try for second five-eighths Ryan Crotty to celebrate his retirement and a halftime lead of 26-10 for the home side.

Halfback Noah Hotham demonstrated his rising class when breaking from a ruck 40m out from the Moana Pasifika line. He ran 15m before lobbing a kick to the goal line when the bounce favoured him to score. Centre Dallas McLeod was fed into a gap to cross after 54 minutes. A collapsed scrum on halfway gave the Crusaders an advantage, and fullback Johnny McNicholl's left-footed kick to the left flank saw wing Macca Springer take the ball at speed and on the full to score the final try.

Crusaders 43 (Ethan Blackadder, Codie Taylor 2, Ryan Crotty, Noah Hotham, Dallas McLeod, Macca Springer tries; Fergus Burke 4 con) Moana Pasifika 10 (Fine Inisi try; William Havili con, pen). HT: 26-10

Waratahs 26 Reds 27

Lock Seru Uru burrowed under the Waratahs' goalline defence to open the scoring, courtesy of the TMO's all-seeing eye. Then, halfback Tate McDermott punished the sleeping Waratahs defenders by tapping a penalty and running 10 metres unchallenged to score. A nicely controlled backline movement off a double round and controlled release by first five-eighths Lawson Creighton resulted in centre Josh Flook scoring wide in the 21st minute.

The second half was a different story, as the Waratahs struck back, first through lock Jed Holloway, playing in the centres to run through and score. Midfield Hunter Paisami scored immediately to give the Reds a decisive buffer. Four minutes later, Waratahs hooker Jay Fonokalafi found his way over the line from a goalline ruck. Home first five-eighths, Jack Bowen scored from a kick-through by centre Joey Walton. The Waratahs claimed the lead when wing Dylan Pietsch was put into space to score. But a ruck infringement on halfway gave replacement five-eighths Tom Lynagh a chance to kick for goal, and he made no mistake. The Waratahs inflicted 20 phases of defence in injury time before a turnover allowed the Reds to clear the ball to touch.

Waratahs 26 (Jed Holloway, Jay Fonokalafi, Jack Bowen, Dylan Pietsch tries; Jack Bowen 3 con) Reds 27 (Seru Uru, Tate McDermott, Josh Flook, Hunter Paisami tries; Lawson Creighton 2 con; Tom Lynagh pen). HT: 0-19

Fijian Drua 40 Rebels 19

Against a team like the Drua, it is impossible to miss 35 tackles without consequences. That fate cost the Rebels after they were competitive at halftime with a 19-19 share. Wing Waqa Nalaga dived in at the corner in the 7th minute for the Drua, but four minutes later, they conceded a penalty try when halfback Frank Lomani kicked the ball in a Rebels scrum bound for the goal line. The Rebels struck again immediately when a cross-kick found fullback Andrew Kellaway unmarked to score. Still down to 14 men, the Drua scored in the 19th minute when fullback Ilaisa Droasese crossed. More consistent forward driving saw lock Josh Canham extend the Rebels' lead with a try, but that was negated four minutes from the break when centre Iosefo Masi was unstoppable close to the line.

The Drua signalled their intent when prop Haereiti Hetet's outstanding midfield charge provided the impetus that saw wing Selestino Ravutaumada cross in the second minute. Masi's break resulted in a bounce pass that Nalaga secured to cross in the corner for his second try in the 47th minute. Four minutes later, Lomani dashed around a goalline ruck to complete the scoring.

Fijian Drua 40 (Waqa Nalaga 2, Ilaisa Droasese, Iosefo Masi, Selestino Ravutaumada, Frank Lomani tries; Isaiah Armstrong-Ravula 3 con; Caleb Muntz 2 con) Rebels 19 (Penalty try; Andrew Kellaway, Josh Canham tries; Josh Strachan con). HT: 19-19

Hurricanes 41 Highlanders 14

A clever piece of play off a lineout which saw hooker Henry Bell getting well over the advantage line with a strong run, created a chance that saw centre Matt Whanga open the scoring after two minutes. It was only a temporary stop on the home team. Nearing seven minutes, hooker Asafo Aumua received a long pass out on the left wing. He brushed off a defender and passed infield to wing Salesi Rayasi, who scored. Seven minutes later, flanker Du'Plessis Kirifi charged through from a goalline ruck for the try. Aumua was back in the action in the 17th minute when a short lineout throw to halfback TJ Perenara at the front of the line was returned before Aumua passed inside for Perenara to score. Rayasi celebrated his 50th appearance with a second try after 23 minutes, charging in from the blindside wing and fed into a gap to score. Lock Fabian Holland burrowed over from a maul on the line to score the Highlanders' second. Kirifi capped the half with his second try from a ruck close to the line.

The second half was less frenetic. Rayasi crossed in the 54th minute for his hat-trick of tries, and in the 61st minute, No8 Brayden Iose went the blindside from a five-metre scrum to complete the scoring.

Hurricanes 41 (Salesi Rayasi 3, Du’Plessis Kirifi, TJ Perenara, Brayden Iose tries; Brett Cameron 3 con) Highlanders 14 (Matt Whaanga, Fabian Holland tries; Sam Gilbert 2 con). HT: 29-14

Blues 31 Chiefs 17

Making a storming start, the Chiefs looked to have produced a try within a minute for fullback Etene Nanai-Seturo, but it was ruled out due to obstruction back on halfway. The Blues' patience countered the Chiefs' enthusiasm, forcing indiscipline, resulting in an early team warning for the Chiefs. It was the Blues who scored first through a lineout maul try for hooker Ricky Riccitelli. After 18 minutes, Chiefs prop Aidan Ross paid the price for repeated indiscipline and was sin-binned. The Blues kicked into the Chiefs' 22m, and when flanker Dalton Papali'i burst through a lineout melee with the ball, he was grounded just short, but No8 Hoskins Sotutu picked up the ball and corkscrewed his way over the line to score. But, five minutes before halftime, he was sin-binned for obstruction, and the Chiefs took advantage to score from a goal-line ruck through Ross.

Starting the second half, wing Caleb Clarke secured the Blues' restart and created the momentum that saw wing Mark Tele'a score on the opposite flank. With Blues scrum pressure five metres from the Chiefs line, Sotutu finally ended the impasse with his second try. Flanker Akira Ioane followed that with a try nine minutes later. But the Chiefs were not done, and replacements Quinn Tupaea and Josh Ioane scored in the 68th and 79th minutes to deny the Blues their all-important bonus point.

Blues 31 (Ricky Riccitelli, Hoskins Sotutu 2, Akira Ioane, Mark Tele’a tries; Harry Plummer 3 con) Chiefs 17 (Aidan Ross, Quinn Tupaea, Josh Ioane tries; Damian McKenzie con). HT: 12-7.

Force 19 Brumbies 24

Skipper and prop Alan Alaalatoa ploughed through the home defence in Perth to open the scoring with a try after five minutes, then five minutes later, an incursion into the Brumbies backline by fullback Tom Wright saw him kick deep into the Force 22m area. Speedy wing Corey Toole ran onto the ball and was untouched in scoring the Brumbies' second. The Force came back in the second quarter but struggled to make the most of their chances until flanker Carlo Tizzano scored in the 34th minute.

While the third quarter was scoreless, Toole repaid his earlier favour from Wright by completing a move started in the Brumbies' 22m area to put the fullback down the sideline to score. The Force stormed home with replacement Issak Fines-Leleiwasa capping a well-constructed team move with a try in the 77th minute. Then, two minutes into injury time, a tap penalty saw George Poolman score in the corner to complete the Force's 2024 campaign.

Force 19 (Carlo Tizzano, Issak Fines-Leleiwasa, George Poolman tries; Bayley Kuenzle 3 con) Brumbies 24 (Alan Alaalatoa, Corey Toole, Tom Wright tries; Noah Lolesio 2 con, pen; Jack Debreczeni con). HT: 7-17


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